PHOENIX RISING FC

Phoenix Rising crowned Pacific Division champs after win over Orange County

Oct 2, 2021, 10:31 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2021, 11:10 am
Phoenix Rising FC manager Rick Schantz celebrates winning the Pacific Division with captain Solomon...
Phoenix Rising FC manager Rick Schantz celebrates winning the Pacific Division with captain Solomon Asante after a 1-0 win over Orange County SC at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, California on Oct. 2, 2021. (Owain Evans Photo)
(Owain Evans Photo)

IRVINE, Calif. — Phoenix Rising FC was crowned 2021 champs of USL Championship’s Pacific Division following a 1-0 win away to Orange County SC on Saturday night at Championship Soccer Stadium.

The victory also marks the first time PRFC has beaten OCSC on the road in the regular season since rebranding from Arizona United SC prior to the 2017 season.

Saturday night’s contest featured the return of two former Orange County players in Phoenix Rising goalkeeper Andre Rawls and midfielder Aodhan Quinn.

“It’s amazing. It’s a reason I came to Phoenix: to win things,” Quinn said postgame.

“So that first box is checked and now we’re focusing on the regular-season title and then the playoffs obviously. We’re just going to take it one game at a time but hopefully keep getting more points.”

The game’s only goal came in the 32nd minute off a chip from PRFC forward Darren Mattocks.

From there, Rising played from back to front in a more defensive shape in order to preserve both the lead and clean sheet.

Orange County finished the night with 60% possession and 20 shots (five on target) compared to Phoenix’s 40% and 14 shots (three on target). However, PRFC won the corner battle, 8-6.

Rawls’ biggest contribution in the contest came in the opening minutes of the second half when the goalkeeper managed to make a double-save off a throw-in.

“The moment of the match for me was Andre’s double-save right at the start of the second half because if they score, it changes everything for us,” manager Rick Schantz said.

”It changes our outlook, our mentality, what our plan was at the 80th minute, the 90th minute. We were prepared to win 1-0.”

Schantz returned to a relatively full starting XI except for left back Tate Schmitt, who served a one-match suspension for the red card he received on Wednesday — the second he’s received in as many halves played.

The PRFC gaffer also elected to start wingback Joey Calistri over left back Ryan Flood and switched sides with his fullbacks so that usual starting right back Darnell King was at LB.

“I think right now Ryan is just lacking a bit of confidence,” Schantz said. “This is a time of year where he hasn’t been a pro before and had to play this many games and train every day. He has a lot of other things going on. Darnell has done it before.

“Ryan is going to get there. He has a long career ahead of him. He just needs to keep his head up and work every day and understand it’s about the team.”

With El Paso Locomotive FC dropping points on the night, Phoenix is now in the driver’s seat when it comes to the top spot in the Western Conference standings.

The only team in all of USLC that has a higher possible point count than Rising (74) is Tampa Bay Rowdies (76), as the two clubs continue to fight for the regular-season title and home-field advantage throughout the entirety of the playoffs — including the Final.

“Win — leaders keep winning. The best thing we can do right now for us is to win these next five games and that’s about it,” Rawls said of what PRFC needs to do in order to be crowned regular-season Western Conference champs.

UP NEXT

Phoenix Rising returns home to host Oakland Roots SC next Saturday.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Catch the audio stream on ArizonaSports.com and the Arizona Sports app.

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